After months and months and months of over analyzing and questioning and praising the Flyers the day has finally come. Today our quest to return to the cup finals begins and as it should, we get the Pens. I would like to give one more analytical essay if you will, directed towards tonight's game. I'm taking it line by line, and pairing by pairing.
Line 1: Carcillo/Richards/Carter: Home field advantage, unlike any other sport except baseball with home team batting last, has a distinct advantage in hockey. Not only the crowd noise, but the advantage of last change. This means if we throw our scorers on the ice they throw their checkers, etc. The Pens get the match-up choice, and I'd imagine they want the Stall line matched up against our Richie/Carter line. I know that we like to match Richards against Crosby, and this can happen (and I'll talk about that later), but there is a way that we can win this match up. The Pens like Carter's line on Stall's line because they feel Stall's has the size, speed, and physicality to match up with Carter. Well with Richie and Carter on the same line with Carbomb, we can unleash the beast to counter Stall. If we get this match-up we win. If we get the Crosby match-up we win greatly. If this line can create time and space for Carter to unload, its a +1 for us.
PS If Carbomb gets Asham... he better fucking destroy him. Pardon my French, but when you hop overboard and jump in the enemies boat, you need to get smashed.
Line 2: Hartnell/Betts/Lieno: The primary objective of this line is to draw the Stall line. If this line gets a majority of offensive zone draws, it is very possible the Stall checking line goes here, which puts the Crosby line covering Richies line. If we get that matchup, this line has the speed to neutralise Stall's size and physicality. Richie's line on Crosby's line is way more physical, and can create turnovers and get the puck going the other way. Back to line two, they need to control the puck and get it deep behind the net into Briere's office. The less time this line is in the defensive zone the better. If Briere controls the pace of the shifts, Hartnell creates space and plays like he's in the playoffs, and Ville doesn't get killed... we'll be fine here.
Line 3: JVR/Giroux/Zherdev: I don't think the Stall line has a shot matching up here, and if they dont this is like a +10. This line has potential to be THE BEST IN THE LEAGUE in a few years. Giroux and JVR will come out huge, and Zherdev has something to proove. This line is the x factor. It is THE BEST THIRD LINE in the league and will create matchup hell for EVERYONE. They lack physicality but with OD, Prongs, and Coburn on each of the three D pairings, we will be fine. KEY TO THE GAME: THIS LINE NEEDS TO BE PLUS
Line 4: Shelly/Betts/Powe: First off, its great to finally have a guy to stand up to Eric Goddard. If they fight, I hope that Shelly gets some good ones in to get the bench fired up for a positive reason for once (Sorry Riley, when you fought they got fired up becasue they thought you just got killed). These guys will take lots of own zone draws, and we need to win more than half of them. Betts needs to play great, and so does Powe. I imagen lots of Shelly's shifts (about half) will go to Carcillo, with those shifts replaced by guys like Giroux and JVR and Briere etc.
Defense 1: Carle/ Pronger (Mez/OD): Pronger wont take every one of his shifts tonight, and I imagen that Meszaros and O'Donnell will take those extras. Matt Carle's job is to play really well and take the pressure off of Pronger. If this line can still be physical, they will be amazing like always. We need a shut down of a top line, and Big 20 and his trusty sidekick Matty Carle normally provide nothing less.
Defense 2: Timonen/Coburn: This is the huge line tonight. As the J/G/Z line is to the offense, the 5/44 pairing is the key to the defense. This line is going to be asked to play 25+ minutes easilly. They have to shut down Crosby and Malkin. Can Coburn play like he did in the preseason? Can Timonen play like he did in the post season? If they do we win. If not then we lose. I think this game is that simple.
Defense 3: Mez/OD: No matter what they are way better than what we had. I don't care if they turn around and shoot on their own goalie. They are still and upgrade. Anyway, if they can get twelve minutes atleast, ideally fifteen a piece without allowing a goal, this line did as advertised. There is no reason 5.1 million a year at the blueline should give up a goal, even strength, against poor competition, in only fifteen minutes. That is a fair challange for them. And I'd love to see how many times it happend last year and tally for this year.
On the PK: Being as the Flyers gave up third most penalties this year, this match-up is huge. Pitt was 20th in the league on the PP, but with Malkin and Crosby they are dangerous. They dont have Sergei Gonchar anymore, which is a nod for us, but they got Zibnin MIlichech (I have no idea how to spell that name of the FA defensmen they got from Phoenix) which is a nod for them. The point is we had the 11th best PK% with way more opportunites allowing more goals. We need to stay out of the box and when we dont we need Powe to fill some big tough shoes.
On the PP: They were shorthanded fifth most, which is a shock to everyone and we have had the sixth most pp opportunities, so we can take advantage of this. We had the third best PP% and they had the eleventh best PK% and we have 6 "New Weapons" on our PP (Giroux and JVR are based on what I saw in the pre-season completley different, more confident players, Hartnell is back to normal again (I hope), Briere is in the same boat that Hartnell is in and then we have Zherdev and Lieno who literally are new weapons. If we can cash in on the PP it would be huge.
Goalies: (lets talk after the game about this one)
There is my analysis. Lets Go Flyers.